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Japanese elderly people rest in the shade at a temple in Tokyo.
Reuters/Yuriko Nakao
Land of the setting sun.
PEOPLE POWER

These are the 20 countries about to grow bigger than a shrinking Japan

Jason Karaian
By Jason Karaian

Global finance and economics editor

Japan is good at making lots of things—except more Japanese. In its latest census, Japan’s population shrank by one million people.

The decline is expected to continue indefinitely. Having topped out at around 128 million, by the end of the century only around 80 million Japanese will remain, according to the UN. Of course, forecasting anything that far into the future is an inexact science. But nobody doubts Japan’s daunting demographics, with an aging, shrinking population making it harder to grow the economy, balance the government’s books, and replace retired workers.

To put Japan’s dwindling population in perspective, consider its steady slide in the rankings: from the fifth-largest country in 1950 to 10th today and 30th in 2100. Its financial might won’t fall as fast as that, but its current struggles to revive a moribund economy presage the struggles ahead.

During the lifetime of kids born today, the distribution of the world’s population will change markedly—the charts below show the 20 countries that will grow larger than Japan between now and 2100; 15 of them are in Africa.

Africa

Asia

Middle East

North America

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